Our guide to proofreading
Whether you’ve written your own copy or had it translated from another language, it pays to have it proofread by a professional. Our handy guide to proofreading will introduce you to the different types of proofreading, the skills you should expect your chosen proofreader to have, and what translation proofreading involves.
What different types of proofreading are there?
There are many kinds of proofreading, for example:
- Proofreading for print media
Print media proofreading – for the purposes of this guide meaning for newspapers, books etc. – is probably the most obvious form. Often performed as somewhat of a final stage before printing, print media proofreading is generally a check for errors. These errors could be in formatting, spelling or grammar and may have been introduced during editing or have been missed entirely during previous rounds of editing.
- Academic proofreading
Academic proofreading, or more specifically, getting someone to proofread your assignment or dissertation, is slightly different. The common theme of checking grammar and spelling returns and is sometimes accompanied by sense checks as well as checks for academic style such as referencing/citing. Depending on service level, academic proofreading may also extend to what some may deem as editing such as advice on style, flow and the language used.
- Translation proofreading
Why does a translation need anything different to the other types of proofreading? Put simply, because there is more than one language involved. Proofreading in translation includes similar things to those mentioned above such as checking formatting, spelling, grammar. But translation proofreading also has to consider meaning, and often actually has access to the source file to check the intended meaning has been conveyed correctly.
So, choosing a proofreader really comes down to what type of text you have and what exactly you are looking for. And while there may be some crossover between the different types, chances are you’ll be better off hiring a proofreader that specialises specifically in the area you want help with.
What makes a good proofreader?
A good proofreader will always:
- Be reliable
Reliable proofreaders will be honest about their workload and whether or not they’re likely to meet your deadline. Furthermore, it can be a good indication that they will be reliable to work with if they respond to your emails promptly.
- Follow a style guide
A good proofreader will read the text as a whole and will therefore pick up on any style, formatting or spelling that is inconsistent with the chosen style guide.
- Work on paper as well as digitally
Many proofreaders swear by printing out the text. This way, they can see the text in its intended form as a finished product and pick up on things they may not have noticed on a screen. However, other details are easier to spot on a PC thanks to formatting symbols, spell checkers and so on. The best proofreaders tend to make use of both.
- Read from bottom to top
Starting at the end of the text and reading up the page is a top tip used by many proofreaders to help them spot errors without getting distracted by the meaning.
- Spot the smallest of details
Experienced proofreaders are eagle-eyed and have excellent concentration. This helps them to spot even seemingly unnoticeable mistakes in your writing. They are also skilled at picking up inconsistencies within larger documents.
- Follow a checklist
Grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation, flow – you name it, it’s on the proofreader’s checklist. This ensures nothing gets missed out or skimmed over.
- Be perfectionists
Don’t be downhearted if the piece of writing you spent many precious hours on comes back from the proofreader covered in revisions. A proofreader is very meticulous and will always strive for perfection for you to ensure your work is faultless and, ultimately, enjoyable to read!
What makes a good translation proofreader?
Translation proofreading requires a few extra considerations. A good translation proofreader will always:
- Be fluent in both languages
When choosing a proofreader for your translation, it is vitally important that you opt for someone who is a master of both the source and target language. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be a translator, but they must be able to read and understand the source text. And crucially, they must be a perfectionist in the target language.
Being able to understand the source will also help your proofreader to make better choices. This is especially relevant when they are tasked with fine-tuning the style and choice of words. The translation must remain authentic and true to the original. So, if the source features a passionate rant, for example, the translation must not be turned into something tame and friendly, just because the proofreader opted to diffuse the language here and there.
- Have outstanding cross-checking skills
Any good proofreader will assess your translation for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and incorrect word usage. They will also carry out a general sense check.
However, for a translation, just doing that doesn’t quite cut it. What’s written in the target may seem to make sense, sound coherent and be stylistically perfect, but if it doesn’t reflect what’s written in the source material at all, then it’s not a translation – it’s a new text. A bilingual proofreader will notice these sorts of inconsistencies when cross-checking both documents. And while it may not necessarily be their job to correct the errors they find, they should certainly notify you about them, so you can liaise with your translator.
Find out more about standards of best practice for proofreading services in the CIEP Code of Practice.